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Dog running to woman on long leash while training it to come back when called

What to do when your dog won't come back

Getting your dog to come back to you when you call him gives you both the freedom and peace of mind to enjoy your time together and is an important part of responsible dog ownership. Some dogs don’t have a clue what we want them to do until we actually show them so a little bit of training and patience is all that is needed!

So your dog can understand what you want him to do when you call him, follow these simple steps:

  • Begin in an area with minimal or no distractions such as your own yard/garden or a small park/field where you’re not likely to meet up with other dogs.

  • Clip your Canny Recall Leash to his regular collar (never use the recall leash with a Canny Collar) or better still, to a harness. Always clip the Recall Leash to the collar or harness first then take your regular leash off to ensure that your dog does not escape.

  • Let your dog go out to the end of the leash, then crouch down to reduce your height – he will come back to you more readily with your height low.

  • Call “Rover come” in a light, happy voice. As you say the word “come”, give a couple of tugs on the leash towards yourself.

  • As soon as your dog takes the first steps towards you, clap your hands and encourage him in a light, high-pitched, excited voice.

  • Wait until he comes right in to your legs – don’t reach your hands out to him yet.

  • When he comes right in, reward him by going overboard with physical and vocal loving and praise.

  • Repeat the process until you find that your dog is coming back to you as soon as he hears the “come” command without you having to tug him towards you.

  • Once you have reached this level (it happens very quickly), you should then take your dog into a busy park situation and expose him to lots of distraction whilst keeping him on the Recall Leash.

In the training period (and afterwards too) it’s important to remember that, when your dog meets another dog, there is a certain pattern or protocol to which dogs like to adhere steadfastly – ie nose to nose then nose to genitals. Wait until the dogs have completed their greeting ritual before you call your dog to you. If you call your dog whilst he’s in the middle of the ritual he won’t respond and you will set yourself up for failure with the exercise.

The greeting protocol takes only a very short time and once over, your dog needs direction, otherwise he will follow his instincts and start chasing or playing with the other dog. He will totally ignore you when he’s in this mode.

You need to teach your dog to come to you each and every time you call. So just be considerate of his needs and wait for the right time to call him to ensure the exercise succeeds regularly and you continually create a positive response to your call.


Why you should teach your dog to come when called

Good recall is important for the following reasons:

  • Security: When your dog is trained to come when called reliably, you can prevent potentially dangerous situations such as running into a busy road or an encounter with another owner's aggressive dog. You can better manage social interactions while walking off leash, ensuring the safety of your dog. This protects his well-being and prevents possible accidents.
  • Builds trust: Recall training strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Good training develops mutual trust and obedience.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing that your dog will respond to your call allows you to enjoy your outdoor activities together in a relaxed manner, knowing that your dog is always safe.

In short, teaching your dog to come when called provides security, bonding, control, and allows you to enjoy a more harmonious and satisfying relationship with your pet. It is a fundamental aspect of training and a valuable investment in the safety and happiness of your dog.


Common problems when training your dog to come

Your dog ignores you when you let him off leash

If when you first let your dog off leash he completely ignores you, you need to take a few steps backward to work on positively reinforcing his experience when he does finally come. Practice in controlled environments, use clear and consistent commands, and reward your dog appropriately when he responds correctly.

Set clear limits and remember that training requires time and patience.


Your dog is easily distracted by other stimuli

If your dog doesn't come when other stimuli are present such as other dogs, people, or balls/toys, it may be that your dog doesn't find you sufficiently interesting or attractive enough.

Focus on strengthening the bond with your dog by beginning with more controlled practice training exercises and slowly increasing external stimuli. Move to each new level once you are confident that you have your dog's attention and he is happy to ignore distractions.


Use your recall leash for six weeks

You will need to keep your dog on the Canny Recall Leash for at least six weeks until the recall habit you’ve created in your dog becomes second nature. Although six weeks sounds like a long time, try to focus on the fact that by restricting your dog initially and preventing failure during the training period, you’ll be giving your dog a lifetime of freedom.

You also need to be aware that it will take only a couple of exercise sessions before your dog knows exactly what you want him to do. This is the time that owners can fall into the trap of thinking their dog is obviously vastly more intelligent than most other dogs and let them off the leash.

If you fall into this trap, you will have to start all over again. Be patient, mark it on your calendar, complete the entire six weeks. Then when it’s time to let him off the leash, take him to an enclosed area (tennis courts are good) or an enclosed park and test him out. We are sure he will surprise you!


Main photo by Simon Schlüter on Instagram


Do you have any additional tips or techniques you would like to share for getting your dog to come when called?

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